Cast & Crew
Early on a September morning, drifter Hal Carter rides a freight train into a small Kansas town seeking his old college friend, wealthy Alan Benson. Wandering toward town, Hal stops in front of elderly Helen Potts' house and asks if he might do any odd jobs for her, but Helen declines, explaining that it is Labor Day and everyone is preparing for the annual town picnic. Charmed by Hal's direct sincerity, Helen nevertheless allows him to clean her lawn and prepares him lunch. Hal then asks Helen about the Bensons, and she reveals that Alan is dating her neighbor, the beautiful Madge Owens, who lives with her mother Flo and younger sister Millie. Next door, meanwhile, Millie and Madge quibble about boys while spinster schoolteacher Rosemary Sydney, who boards with the Owens, dismisses the romantic prospect of the picnic. Later that morning, Hal arrives at the Bensons' affluent home to reunite with a delighted Alan, and the young men reminisce about college. At the Owens' home, Flo fits Madge with a striking new dress for the picnic, and inquires about the seriousness of Madge's relationship with Alan. While Millie laments that she is always overlooked because of Madge's good looks, Madge envies Millie her college scholarship and intellect. When Alan drives Hal to the family business, Hal confides his determination to find success and Alan agrees to give him an entry-level job at the company. Alan then invites Hal to join him and the Owenses for a swimming date and the picnic. After the swim, Alan confidently predicts that Madge will be crowned the seasonal Queen of Neewollah, "Halloween" spelled backwards. Later, at the Owens' house, Rosemary bitterly speculates that her beau, mild businessman Howard Bevans, will arrive for the picnic drunk. Flo is disappointed when Madge decides to wear a less fancy dress to the picnic, but pleased that Alan is nevertheless attentive to her daughter. While Hal drives Millie to the picnic in one of Alan's cars, Flo rides with Madge and Alan. Worried that Hal might be a bad influence, Flo questions Alan about him and learns that Hal grew up poor and won a sports scholarship to college, but nevertheless flunked out. On their way to the picnic, Rosemary initially resists Howard's offer of a sip of whiskey, but then gives in. During the festive afternoon, Hal joins Millie in several contests, and after the group eats, Alan grows annoyed with Hal's good-natured tall-tales while noticing, along with Flo, Hal and Madge's mutual attraction. As the sun sets, Howard and Rosemary continue to drink and Rosemary grows increasingly restless. The Owenses and their friends then excitedly gather on the pier to hear the announcement for the "Neewalloh" queen and are pleased when Madge is presented on as the winner. Dancing begins and a drunken Rosemary attempts to make Howard dance with her. When he refuses, Rosemary forces Millie to dance with her, and Hal playfully dances with Howard, which enrages Rosemary. Hal then dances with Millie until Madge spots them. When Madge and Hal begin a sensuous dance together, Helen watches admiringly, but Flo is alarmed. Also disturbed by the couple's intimacy, Rosemary lashes out at Hal and drunkenly breaks up their dance, embarrassing Hal by tearing his shirt when he attempts to pull away from her. When Millie declares she is feeling ill, Flo blames Hal for getting her drunk. Alan arrives and viewing the spectacle, accuses Hal of being a fake and a bum. Distraught, Hal rushes away and is followed by Madge. Howard apologizes to the group for providing the whiskey, while in the parking lot, Madge apologizes to Hal for Alan, but Hal angrily tells her that he is leaving town on the next freight train. When Madge tries to convince Hal to remain, he calls himself a bum and admits he went to reform school and lost countless unsuccessful jobs. Madge nevertheless praises Hal, admiring his confidence and carefree nature. When Hal reveals that his parents rejected him, Madge kisses him and confides her fear of being cared for only because of her looks. Hal misses the next freight train and stays with Madge. Howard, meanwhile, drives a dejected Rosemary home, and she pleads with him to marry her, explaining that her life is utterly empty. When he refuses and asks for things to remain the same between them, Rosemary declares they cannot see each other again unless he intends to marry her. Hal escorts Madge home early in the morning, concerned about her and whether he should remain in town and work for the Bensons. Later, when Hal returns the car to the Bensons, he discovers that Alan has reported the car stolen and summoned the police. When Alan demands that the police arrest Hal, Hal insists that Alan admit he leant him the car and that his anger is really jealousy over Madge. Alan strikes Hal, who knocks him and the policemen down before fleeing in Alan's car. Hal abandons the car, evades the police and rushes to Howard's for help. The next morning, when Howard comes to the Owenses to reiterate that he will not wed Rosemary, she misunderstands and enthusiastically tells everyone that they are marrying. Flo informs Madge that Alan has telephoned, while Howard secretly tells her that Hal is waiting to see her outside. Madge meets Hal in the yard where he reveals that although he must leave town, he loves her and wants her to come to Tulsa with him. Panicked, Flo intervenes and begs Madge to stay and marry Alan, but Hal pleads with Madge to do what she wants. Confused, Madge does not respond and, while rushing away to catch a passing freight train, Hal continues beseeching Madge to join him. Later, in their bedroom, Millie confronts Madge, encouraging her sister to be smart and to go with Hal. When Madge comes downstairs with her suitcase packed, Flo becomes hysterical, but Madge remains determined. Helen comforts Flo as Madge catches the Tulsa-bound bus.
Elizabeth W. Wilson
Don C. Harvey
Henry P. Watson
Paul R. Cochran
Harold A. Beyer
Adlai Zeph Fisher
Harry Sherman Schall
Wayne R. Sullivan
Warren Frederick Adams
Carle E. Baker
George E. Bemis
G. Clifton Bingham
Eddie De Lange
Carter Dehaven Jr.
Annie F. Harrison
James Wong Howe
William A. Lyon
J. L. Malloy
Best Art Direction
Best Supporting Actor
Picnic - Picnic
Tag line for Picnic
William Holden worked against type to play the sex-charged drifter Hal who brings new life to the women of a small, stifling town in Kansas in the 1955 screen version of Picnic. Though some critics carped that the 37-year-old actor was not young enough for the role -- or for the play's sexual shenanigans -- he proved them wrong, establishing himself as a major sex symbol with his performance and rising to the top of the year's annual box-office polls.
Picnic had first set pulses racing in 1953 on Broadway, where it won a Pulitzer Prize for playwright William Inge and a Tony for director Joshua Logan. Columbia Pictures head Harry Cohn picked up the film rights and, hoping to make the film a critical hit as well as a popular one, asked Logan to undertake his first solo directing assignment. Logan had worked in Hollywood in the '30s as a dialogue director, then shared a directing credit with Arthur Ripley on the 1938 thriller I Met My Love Again. Unhappy in Hollywood, he returned to Broadway, scoring a series of stage hits, including Annie Get Your Gun, South Pacific and Mr. Roberts.
Holden was at the end of his Columbia contract when he signed to play Hal. He only owed the studio one more film and had to settle for a paltry $30,000 fee under his contract. At the time, he was coming off a string of hits including Sabrina (1954), with Audrey Hepburn, and The Country Girl (1954), with Grace Kelly, and his going rate as a free-lance actor was $250,000 per picture. Nonetheless, he was happy to finish his contract with such a prestigious project. He only balked at two things, the dance scene and the requirement that he strip to the waist for several scenes, complaining, "I'm too damned old and too conservative to do a striptease." But he was also too professional to let the production down, so he went back to the gym so he would be in good shape for the role and even consented to shaving his chest to conform to current standards of masculine beauty.
Logan asked Arthur O'Connell to re-create his stage performance as shopkeeper Howard Bevans, which would launch him on a long career as one of Hollywood's top character actors. Susan Strasberg had just scored a Broadway hit in The Diary of Anne Frank, which led to her screen debut as a small-town tomboy in Picnic. Also earning his first big-screen credit was Cliff Robertson as the college buddy who loses his fiance to Hal. The role's originator, Paul Newman, was unavailable as he was just starting his rise to stardom at Warner Bros. For the flashy supporting role of Rosemary, the aging schoolteacher driven to a drunken frenzy by Hal's presence, Logan wanted to cast his friend Rosalind Russell, but was afraid she'd balk at taking the lesser role. When he called her and asked, "Would you like to do Pic...?" she said yes before he could finish the sentence.
Casting the female lead was much harder. Madge is a small-town beauty queen with a heart, a role requiring an actress who could be both sexy and emotionally responsive. Janice Rule had played the role on stage, but though Logan tested her repeatedly, they couldn't capture her beauty and sex appeal on film. He also tested the young Carroll Baker, but she was too childlike. Cohn wanted the studio's resident blonde bombshell, Kim Novak, for the role, but though noted for her beauty, she was considered somewhat deficient in the acting department. Some stories state that he forced her on Logan. The director would later say that he tested her repeatedly and finally decided she would be perfect, then had to sell her to producer Fred Kohlmar and writer Daniel Taradash. Reportedly, for one of her last tests he instructed actor Aldo Ray, who was subbing for Holden, to "get some emotion from her any way you can, short of rape." She finally won over the entire production crew, though Logan then shocked Cohn by demanding that her trademark lavender blonde hair be darkened for the role.
Logan also insisted on two weeks of rehearsals at a cost of $20,000 a day. From the start, Novak felt insecure around the high-voltage cast, which led to her becoming withdrawn and moody. Holden was insecure, too, worried that he would look too old next to her. When he tried to get her to loosen up, she shrugged him off. As a result, they barely spoke on the set. Logan's frustrations with her mounted throughout filming. At one point, he reportedly punched her in the stomach to get her to show some emotion on screen. It must have worked, as many critics were surprised at her effective dramatic performance.
Most of the picture was filmed on location around Hutchinson, Kansas, which gave Logan the opportunity to show the Labor Day picnic on screen where it had only been talked about on stage. In exchange for local color and hundreds of eager extras, however, he and the cast had to deal with harsh summer weather, including a tornado that interrupted one night scene. He also wanted to show Hal's athletic prowess on screen. One night in the company hotel, he asked Holden if he could do any gymnastic tricks, not realizing the actor was a trained gymnast. Holden handed his drink to somebody, opened a window and dangled from the ledge -- ten stories above the ground. He refused to come in until the director, who was afraid of heights, actually came to the window and watched him.
The one thing that panicked Holden was the thought of dancing on screen. When he had been forced to dance with Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina, he went on a three-day drunk as a way of handling the ordeal. Logan had choreographer Miriam Nelson take Holden to the local roadhouses, where he could get drunk while dancing to the jukeboxes. The director thought he'd solved the problem, but just as they started to film the dance on location, the set was hit with a hailstorm. They ended up having to shoot the scene on a Hollywood soundstage. Once back there, Holden demanded stunt pay for doing the dance. Cohn wrote him a check for $8,000, but the actor still needed a few belts in him to face the scene. When Logan finally got some footage, it was a disaster to rival the hail storm and tornado. As he would write in his memoirs, "They [Holden and Novak] bobbed about awkwardly like grade-schoolers." Finally, cinematographer James Wong Howe solved the problem by having the lights and camera do the dancing. He placed the camera on a dolly that allowed it to circle the stars while also swaying up and down. He also set up 50 small, brightly colored spotlights so that the smallest movements changed the colors on the stars. The result was a classic scene. Composer George Duning had combined his theme for the film with the '30s standard "Moonglow," and the movie made "Moonglow" a hit all over again. After the film came out, a friend wrote Logan that he'd overheard two elderly ladies in a diner listening to the song. One of them said, "Isn't that the theme from Picnic?" "I don't know," said the other, "but every time I hear it I want to get laid."
Picnic inspired similar feelings in fans around the country, becoming one of the year's top box-office attractions with $6.3 million in rentals. Released late in 1955, it helped make Holden the top box-office star of 1956 and paved the way for even greater success. The day he finished work on the film, Holden shared a drink with Logan and Cohn in the film mogul's office. As they sipped their Scotches, Holden informed Cohn that he would never work for him again, complaining that his small fees at Columbia had averaged out to just $50 a week. Still, Cohn insisted on toasting Holden's next picture there. A year later, Cohn came calling with another film, The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), that would make Holden a multi-millionaire and an international superstar.
Producer: Fred Kohlmar
Director: Joshua Logan
Screenplay: Daniel Taradash
Based on the Play by William Inge
Cinematography: James Wong Howe
Art Direction: William Flannery
Music: George Duning
Cast: William Holden (Hal Carter), Kim Novak (Madge Owens), Betty Field (Flo Owens), Susan Strasberg (Millie Owens), Cliff Robertson (Alan Benson), Arthur O'Connell (Howard Bevans), Verna Felton (Helen Potts), Reta Shaw (Irma Kronkite), Nick Adams (Bomber), Rosalind Russell (Rosemary).
C-114m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
by Frank Miller
Picnic - Picnic
The Kim Novak Collection - MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT & JEANNE EAGELS Highlight THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION on DVD
The movies in Sony's The Kim Novak Film Collection take her appeal in four different directions. Picnic gives Novak her most iconic role. Madge Owens is the Kansas high school prom queen desperate to escape her identity as the 'local beauty'. Madge's mother Flo (Betty Field) wants to hurry her marriage to the local rich kid Alan Benson (Cliff Robertson), but Madge unconsciously envies her brighter, less dazzling sister Millie (Susan Strasberg), who hates small town life and wants to run away to New York to "write books to shock everybody". Meanwhile, the spinster schoolteacher Rosemary (Rosalind Russell) is living another female nightmare -- well into middle age, she's desperate to marry the local merchant Howard Bevans (Arthur O'Connell).
The catalyst arrives in the form of Hal Carter (William Holden), a former college buddy of Alan's who tells spicy tales of bumming around Hollywood and wants to beg Alan's dad for a job. Hal talks big but can't hide the fact that he's a bum and will have to start as a laborer. That doesn't decrease his appeal to Madge, much to the horror of her mother. Hal's virility also upsets Rosemary, who causes a scene at the grand Labor Day picnic that gets them all into trouble. The film's classic scene is an almost magical evening dance at the picnic. Hal and Madge suddenly know that they're fated for each other, in a relationship with little hope for a future.
Made on location at great expense, Picnic is an exceptional Columbia film. Cinematographer James Wong Howe's warm, diffuse colors give the show a special look for its year (1955), transforming the harvest picnic into a painfully poignant ritual for those in desperate need to change their lives. Director Joshua Logan handles the actors extremely well, and the camera blocking is worked out to perfection. The superb dialogue by William Inge, the original author of the Broadway play, gives William Holden a terrific opportunity to show how appealing he can be as a tough-guy loser. We soon forget that Holden is at least ten years too old to play Hal. Kim Novak's part seems almost autobiographical -- the deceptively "shallow" girl weary of being told she's beautiful.
It's said that Inge adapted Picnic and Splendor in the Grass from real events he witnessed back in Independence, Kansas -- tragedies that befell admired young high school celebrities. He stirred up resentment when the locals recognized the original cases. Picnic has dramatic teeth because we know that Flo Owens, the abandoned mother, is almost certainly correct in trying to stop her daughter from leaving: Hal and Madge's passion will almost certainly collapse in poverty, gambling, or liquor. That's apparently what happened in real life. But Madge resolves to take her chances with the cards she's dealt. Inge gives his most hopeful thoughts to the sweet lady next door, Helen Potts (Verna Felton). She's an elderly woman taking care of an even older mother, and locked away from opportunities of life and love. Helen gives Madge her unspoken blessing -- she knows that a woman must follow her heart, one way or another.
Sony's DVD of Picnic is an improvement on their earlier widescreen disc, with softer colors and less grain. Some fading has occurred but the digital restoration is remarkably effective.
The second film in the Kim Novak Collection Jeanne Eagels is reviewed here.
Pal Joey is another George Sidney effort adapted from the 1940 Broadway musical that had made Gene Kelly a star. Pushed and pulled out of shape to accommodate the requirements of its stellar cast -- especially Frank Sinatra -- Pal Joey has its own glossy appeal. Originally a womanizing heel who uses both a socialite and stenographer as a path to getting his own nightclub, Joey has been transformed into a more sympathetic Frank Sinatra clone. Although much of the bite of John O'Hara's original has been left behind, the film offers Sinatra singing more Rodgers and Hart standards (The Lady is a Tramp). The colorful, classy cinematography is a treat -- many shots look as though they could be Sinatra album covers from the period. Some Sinatra fans consider this his best film role.
Besides making Joey a nice guy, the adaptation reinvents socialite Vera Simpson (Rita Hayworth) as an ex-burlesque queen. Showgirl Linda English (Kim Novak) tempts Joey in a scene that's at least verbally sexy. Everybody gets to sing and dance although Novak's singing voice is dubbed. With a couple of characters dropped and an entire blackmail scheme eliminated, Pal Joey becomes a Sinatra star vehicle plain and simple. Among the supporting players, Barbara Nichols has some nice moments as another showgirl.
This new transfer is much nicer than grainy Sony disc from about ten years ago. Colors pop quite beautifully, giving Novak's close-ups an almost hallucinogenic quality. Although Rita Hayworth has more depth as an actress, Novak's youth has the edge in the glamour department.
The Stephen Rebello-hosted extras really hit their stride for Pal Joey . The discussion starts off with Jean Louis' gowns -- Novak remembers taking a big interest in her clothing and participating in the design process. Rebello also solicits comments on Novak's preference against wearing bras. We then see quite a lot of Novak's beautiful home on a river, and hear more about her happy life in an artist's colony. Her bedroom features her own painted murals.
The select-scene commentary aligns nicely with its subject matter, with Novak discussing her dubbed singing and the experience of working with Sinatra. She remembers a marked change in Sinatra's attitude from The Man with the Golden Arm. Novak explains that her complicated dance number with Hayworth was ruined when Frank arrived and cut out moves and bits he didn't like or didn't want to learn. In the finished film, the number is pretty ragged.
1958's Bell, Book and Candle re-teams the stars of Hitchcock'sVertigo in a quirky romantic comedy that plays like a do-over to allow Kim Novak and James Stewart a happier finish. Beautiful, mysterious art gallery proprietress Gil Holroyd (Novak) is actually a practicing witch. She resorts to a love charm to attract Shep Henderson (James Stewart), prying him away from his icky fianceé Merle (Janice Rule, wonderful in the thankless role). Less like Burn Witch, Burn and more like TV's Bewitched, witchcraft here is an apparently non-Satanic lifestyle. Gil's Aunt Queenie (Elsa Lanchester) and her own brother Nicky (Jack Lemmon are a happy-go-lucky Greenwich Village practioners that limit their magic to petty ends -- Nicky can't find a good job. Nicky foolishly helps phony occult writer Sidney Redlitch (Ernie Kovacs) learn about real witchcraft, which threatens to expose all of them.
Of course, romantic problems arise when Gil breaks the rules of witchcraft by falling in love with her new 'enchanted' boyfriend, and regrets not winning him the honest way. This is of course foolish, as any breathing man would crawl through fire for a date with Gil, who is a knockout in her glamorous hip-chick costumes.
Kim Novak takes to the barefoot Bohemian style quite well, even with a pair of painted eyebrows that look more like giant commas come to roost. Stewart exercises his comedy skills without resorting to Harvey- type slapstick. His late night snuggling scenes with Novak equate romantic infatuation with magical enchantment. Gil and Shep indeed make a very attractive couple, and the picture works. Hermoine Gingold adds spice playing an even more adept spell-caster than Novak's Gil.
In the accompanying featurette Kim Novak sticks to standard praise to talk about her co-stars Lemmon and Kovacs but assures us that she recognized a fellow 'real person' in James Stewart, a man as comfortable "as a pair of old slippers". Novak also cops to loving the witchcraft angle -- she obviously delighted in working with Gil's 'familiar', a Siamese cat named Pywacket.
1959's Middle of the Night is a heavy but rewarding drama from Paddy Chayefsky, who adapts his own play. Set in a somewhat depressing vision of the New York garment district, the show is about aging widower Jerry Kingsley (Fredric March) and his unstable relationship with the young Betty Preisser, his secretary (Novak). Betty is divorced from George, a musician (Lee Phillips) and has trouble making decisions. Her planned marriage to Jerry meets plenty of resistance from her mother (Glenda Farrell) and she sometimes feels like getting back together with George. Meanwhile, Jerry takes flak from his bossy older sister and his married daughter Lillian (Joan Copeland), who makes life difficult for her own husband (Martin Balsam) as well. Providing a negative role model is fellow garment worker Lachman (Albert Dekker) a boastful but unhappy womanizer. Does Jerry and Betty's romance have a chance?
Middle of the Night looks at a Marty- like situation from a different angle, with two well-meaning and emotionally needy people negotiating a minefield of disapproval and self-doubt. It doesn't take much to change their mood from infatuation to suspicion. Both feel like losers in love and neither wants to be hurt again. But all relationships are fraught with risk, and Jerry and Betty feel a strong attraction across the May-December gulf.
Once again Paddy Chayefsky's flair for the natural flow of dialogue pulls us deeper into the drama. Jerry's pride is too easily hurt and Betty is woefully insecure. The depth of her weakness becomes clear when the smooth-talking George shows up one evening and too easily talks his way back into her bed. The show looks at adult relationships in an adult context, and comes out a winner. This is one of Novak's finest films.
Middle of the Night benefits from the presence of quality actors like Glenda Farrell and Lee Grant. Young Jan Norris also makes a big impression as Betty's precocious younger sister -- as she did a year or two later as one of Natalie Wood's girlfriends in Splendor in the Grass.
On the set's final featurette Ms. Novak talks at length about her rewarding experience on Middle of the Night, despite the fact that it didn't do well at the box office. It's her most accomplished acting part and she's perfect for it. Betty is a mess of contradictions; Kim describes her as a "baby" hungry for intimacy and a father figure. Novak tells us that the telling blocking in one scene, where Jerry handles a dress dummy as if it were Betty's body, was her idea. She also says that March had to be repeatedly reminded to respect her 'personal boundaries'!
The Kim Novak Film Collection makes us grateful that Sony is currently doing such a fine job with its library titles, when several other studios have more or less abandoned classic movies. The transfers are all exceptionally good and widescreen enhanced. The color films range from the candy-hues of Pal Joey to the softer palette of Picnic, while the stylized B&W work in Jeanne Eagels contrasts strongly with Middle of the Night's documentary look. Picnic and Pal Joey have 5.1 tracks, which may be original mixes.
Added value producer Greg Carson has scored a coup with Kim Novak's participation, and author Stephen Rebello (Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho) delivers an exemplary interview portrait of this legendary shrinking violet. Ms. Novak's attitude about her own fame is very interesting. She understands the point of view of Marlene Dietrich, who worked into her seventies and then retreated forever away from cameras that would mar her near-mystical image of glamour. Kim Novak liked her Hollywood work but loves her privacy and creative life more. Her interviews convince us that she's happy with the way things worked out. She sees no need to appear on camera in close-up. For the many among us who have been enamored of her for half a century, her comments and confidences here are more than enough reward.
For more information about The Kim Novak Collection, visit Sony Pictures. To order The Kim Novak Collection, go to TCM Shopping.
by Glenn Erickson
The Kim Novak Collection - MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT & JEANNE EAGELS Highlight THE KIM NOVAK COLLECTION on DVD
I gotta get somewhere in this world. I just gotta.- Hal Carter
If a woman's going to ask me to marry her, the least she could do is say "Please."- Howard Bevans
Columbia Pictures wanted to promote Rosalind Russell for an Academy Award nomination, but the actress refused to be placed in the "best supporting" category. Many felt she would have won had she cooperated.
'Holden, William' had to shave his chest for his role as it was considered too risque for those times.
Kim Novak's character Madge was originated on Broadway by actress Janice Rule.
In 1957, a marketing investigator, James Vicary, announced that for six weeks he had included subliminal messages in showings of the movie "Picnic." The messages supposedly said: "Eat Popcorn, Drink Coca-Cola." According to Vicary, the sales of this products increased from 18 to 57%. Even though his experiment led him to fame, Vicary never gave details of how he realized the experiment; and admitted in a later interview that everything was just a marketing trick.
The last shot is apparently the first use of a helicopter shot in a feature movie. It was filmed by Haskell Wexler, who was - at that time - James Wong Howe's assistant.
William Inge's play Picnic was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and Drama Critics Award in June 1953. The Broadway production starred Ralph Meeker as "Hal," Janice Rule as "Madge", Paul Newman as "Alan" and Kim Stanley as "Millie." Arthur O'Connell ("Howard") was the only actor from the original play to recreate his role for the movie. According to information in the file on the film in the MPAA/PCA Collection at the AMPAS Library, both Paramount and 20th Century-Fox studios expressed interest in producing Inge's play, but were concerned about problems with the play's frank sexual content. According to news items, Columbia purchased the play in September 1953 for between $300,000 and $400,000. After submitting a script to the PCA in November 1954, the studio was cautioned to cut all suggestion that "Hal" and "Madge" had improper relations after the picnic. In the film it remains somewhat ambiguous as to whether Madge and Hal had slept together or not.
The provocative dance scene between Hal and Madge during the picnic went on to become an iconographic film moment. A modern biography on William Holden indicates the actor was very uneasy about the scene because of his limited dancing skills. The original music from the film was a great popular success and resulted in RCA Victor releasing the theme song as a radio single. Kim Novak appeared in the film as a redhead, a departure from her signature platinum blonde style.
In an oral history at the AMPAS Library, screenwriter Daniel Taradash indicates that Columbia studio head Harry Cohn offered him the opportunity to direct Picnic in exchange for writing the script. However, Joshua Logan, who also directed Picnic onstage, was given the job. Although Logan had years of theater direction experience, he had previously co-directed only one film, United Artists 1938 release, I Met My Love Again. Logan demanded that the play be rewritten to alter its unhappy ending of Hal and Madge not getting together, despite acknowledging that ending was probably more realistic. The film was shot on location near Kansas City, MO. Although the 1956 Paramount release Vagabond King (see below) was filmed first, Picnic was released first and thereby marked the feature film debut of actress Phyllis Newman.
Picnic won Academy Awards for Best Art Direction and Best Editing. The picture also received Academy Award nominations for Best Motion Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Arthur O'Connell), Best Direction and Best Music. In 1986 Gregory Harrison and Jennifer Jason Leigh appeared in a television adaptation of Inge's play broadcast on the Showtime cable network. In 2000, Josh Brolin and Gretchen Mol co-starred in a CBS television broadcast of Picnic.
Voted One of the Year's Ten Best Films by the 1955 National Board of Review.
Winner of an Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement by the 1955 Directors Guild of America.
Released in United States 1999
Released in United States Winter February 1956
Re-released in United States August 8, 1996
Re-released in United States July 26, 1996
Feature acting debut for Cliff Robertson.
Formerly distributed by Columbia Pictures.
Released in USA on video.
Released in United States 1999 (Shown in New York City (Film Forum) as part of program "Columbia 75" November 19 - January 13, 1999.)
Released in United States Winter February 1956
Re-released in United States July 26, 1996 (Film Forum; New York City)
Re-released in United States August 8, 1996 (Nuart; Los Angeles)